Australian party leaders vie for most-unpopular in latest poll


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Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, at a news conference in Australia. Photographer: Mark Graham/Bloomberg Tony Abbott, Australia's prime minister, at a news conference in Australia. Photographer: Mark Graham/Bloomberg


Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott is unpopular with voters. His biggest consolation -- main rival Bill Shorten is even more disliked despite the opposition Labor Party retaining its opinion-poll lead.
The Fairfax-Ipsos poll published Monday shows the leaders of Australia’s two main political parties are both on the nose with the electorate. Approval for the Liberal-National coalition’s Abbott fell 4 percentage points from almost a month before to 36 percent, while Labor leader Shorten dipped 6 points to a record-low 35 percent.
Labor’s lead over the coalition held at 53 percent to 47 percent on a two-party preferred basis, putting the party on track to win an election due to be held by next year. Still, speculation is mounting that Shorten’s job is on the line after allegations emerged of impropriety during his years as a union boss.
The key asset in his bid to keep his post may be Abbott, who narrowly survived a February challenge to his leadership from his own Liberal lawmaker colleagues and has failed to gain much traction with voters since.
“Australian voters are feeling disillusioned because both leaders seem to lack vision and haven’t been able to come up with inspiring policies,” said Andrew Hughes, a political analyst at the Australian National University in Canberra. “They both seem unable to capitalize on the other’s unpopularity and remain in a holding pattern of negativity.”
Since February’s challenge, sparked by disquiet over his political judgment and unflagged spending cuts, Abbott, 57, has focused his message on delivering economic and national security. The Liberal-National coalition since returning to power in September 2013 has had the worst performance in opinion polls for a new government in almost 30 years.
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Abbott’s message has been diluted by a slowdown in growth. Divisions within the coalition are also emerging over Abbott’s refusal to give lawmakers a free vote on same-sex marriage legislation. Still, his personal approval rating is up from a February low of 29 percent, according to the poll.
Shorten, 48, has come under scrutiny after a recent documentary portrayed him as a leading instigator in Labor’s internal machinations that brought down prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard in the last decade.
He’ll be under the spotlight again on July 8 when he’s questioned by a royal commission into union corruption about deals made with construction companies while leading the Australian Workers Union. Shorten has denied any wrongdoing.
The Ipsos Fairfax poll, conducted July 2-4 with 1,402 respondents, had a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.

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